Wednesday, July 13

Ergonomic Education Anyone?

For some time now I have been advocating that anyone in the knowledge transfer business - and that's probably everyone reading this - needs to start becoming aware of the incredible work being done in the areas of educational psychology, cognitive sciences,brain research, etc. In short anything that helps us understand the 'why' and 'how' of learning at the most basic level - the brain.

I call it "Ergonomic Education". Ergonomic in the Columbia Encyclopedia means "The engineering science concerned with the physical and psychological relationship between machines and the people who use them. The ergonomicist takes an empirical approach to the study of human-machine interactions. The objective is to improve the efficiency of operation by taking into account a typical person's size, strength, speed, visual acuity, and physiological stresses, such as fatigue, speed of decision making, and demands on memory and perception.

Applications range from the design of work areas (including office furniture, automobile interiors, and aircraft cockpits) to the disposition of switches and gauges on the control panels of machinery to determining the size, shape, and layout of keys on computer terminals and character height, color, and clarity on video displays. The field of ergonomics is also sometimes called human or human-factors engineering, engineering psychology, and biotechnology. "

I want to extend this definition to include designing educational materials. As I understand it, the term means to design something that takes into account the way we naturally function. Ergonomic shovels, for example, have the handle turned from a traditional underhand grip, to a sideways grip because it is more in tune with the way we are naturally built, and most handily hold a shovel grip. I use one exclusively and it is an incredibly comfortable and useful tool! Again, ergonomic chairs are designed to support the ways our bodies actually, naturally and most comfortably sit. I spend hours in mine and get up without the aches and pains 'normal' chairs cause.

So why not Ergonomic Education that takes into account the way we naturally learn? Take ESl. ESL currently means "English as a Second Language" and focuses on learning English through reading. There's a new Knowledge Economy, digital age company called BravoBrava! that takes it to mean "English as a Spoken Langauge" and focuses on the more natural path of learning to speak before learning to read.

Any other examples of Ergonomic Education out there? Websites on the brain or cognitive science or such worth adding to Favorites? Newsletter subsciptions? Anyone like or hate this idea? Anyone like to have a copy of my lists?


jay said...

David, we're on the same wave-length on this one. I'm looking into architecture that fosters learning (it ain't cubes). I'll report back when I have a fuller perspective.

For the brain stuff, I enjoy Zack Lynch's Brain Waves Update. Go to to subscribe.

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Bruce Price said...

I'm using "ergonomic education" and "ergonomic teaching" to mean taking an engineer's perspective: how do we teach the most information in the least time with the least effort??? As the social engineers got control of American education during the 20th century, there was almost a hostility to facts.
Now, I think there's a greater urgency about schools--we have to make them work. So, I predict, there'll be more interest in what your original column speculated on.

My own take, focused on education, is 26: How To Teach History, Etc. on

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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